One of the clever evolutions of the Ford Escort Mk 1 was the Mexico road car. The works team’s Ford Escort RS1600s won the Daily Mirror World Cup Rally and also finished third, fifth and sixth. The winning car was driven by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm who conquered a gruelling 16,000 mi (25,750 km) course through Europe and South America, starting at London’s Wembley Stadium in mid-April and finishing in Mexico City during late May.
This extraordinary event attracted massive public interest, and Ford was a past master at turning motor-racing victories into hard cash by selling road cars that exploited the cachet of competition success. It was therefore no surprise to anyone when the distinctive Escort Mexico started appearing in showrooms up and down Britain. In fact, this custom version wasn’t really so very different from any old Escort Mk 1, but that didn’t stop it becoming a popular buy with dedicated motorsports enthusiasts.
The Escort Mexico did have the robust Ford Kent 011V engine, and shared the competition RS1600’s strengthened two-door body shell, plus Rallye Sport suspension and brakes. Buyers obviously wanted to trumpet the fact that they had a special car, so the Mexico sported bucket seats and wide body stripes that contrasted with the rest of the paintwork. Extras like alloy wheels and four rather ostentatiously covered rally-style spotlamps on the front usually completed the impressive picture.
Escort Mexicos have become very desirable amongst those who like to own, maintain and drive collectable British cars from the 1970s. They are affordable, robust, easy to work on and still drive well. And with fewer than 10,000 produced during the four-year production run, the Mexico stands out from the large crowd of Escort Mk is that have dodged the scrapyard.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UK
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1970 (until 1974)
ENGINE: 1,599 CC OHV Straight Four
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 100 mph (161 km/h); 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 7.9 secs YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Mk 2 Escort Mexico was produced between 1975 and 1978 and is much rarer than its predecessor, having to compete with the Escort 1600 Sport and the pokey Escort RS2000 — just 2,500 examples were built at Saarlouis in West Germany.